Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Historical, Pictorial Accounts of the Development of Jakarta: Book Reviews by Ron Witton

Jakarta, Mon Amour

Scott Merrillees, BATAVIA in Nineteenth Century Photographs (Archipelago Press, 2000); 282 pp: A$ 85 plus postage from

Scott Merrillees, Greetings from JAKARTA: Postcards of a Capital 1900-1950 (Equinox Publishing, 2012); 248 pp; A$ 50 plus postage from; or Rp 495,000 plus postage from

Scott Merrillees, JAKARTA: Portraits of a Capital 1950-1980 (Equinox Publishing, 2015); 159 pp; A$ 50 plus postage from; or Rp 495,000 plus postage from

 “I recently came across three books that trace, pictorially, the history of the development of Jakarta, from the earliest days of photography in the mid-nineteenth century through to 1980:

Browsing through the books brought back a kaleidoscope of memories.

It all began in early 1962 when, as a newly arrived 18-year-old, first year student at Sydney University, I sat down in Fisher Library next to an Asian student. We got talking and about what we were studying and I told him I was studying French and German. He told me his name was Albert Kwee and that he came from Indonesia. He said that although he was of Chinese descent, he did not speak Chinese as his family had lived in Indonesia for many generations and only spoke Indonesian, the national language. Curious, I asked him about the language. He wrote down a few sentences, showing me that it was written perfectly phonetically in Latin script, had a very simple, straightforward grammar in that its verbs did not conjugate and its nouns and adjectives did not decline. For someone who had struggled through high school with the grammatical idiosyncrasies of Latin, German and French, and the intimidating nature of French pronunciation, Indonesian seemed like a breath of fresh air. Soon after, I found that Sydney University had a Department of Indonesian and Malayan Studies. I quickly enrolled, and in so doing determined the course of the rest of my life. Albert became a life-long friend, both of us being best men at our respective weddings. I ended up completing my bachelor, master and doctoral degrees in Indonesian studies, have often lectured on Indonesia, and still work as an Indonesian interpreter and translator.

Half way through my first year studies, I was so taken by Indonesian studies that I decided to buy a ticket on a Lloyd Triestino passenger liner to see the country for myself. This is how, in December 1962, I caught my first glimpse of Indonesia from the deck of a ship as it sailed into Tanjung Priok, Jakarta’s harbour. I still have the letters I wrote home to my family and upon reading them now, I am transported back. In the distance behind the city, there were mountains and on the wharf below, I could see Albert’s family holding up a sign saying “Kwee” so that I could recognise them. As they drove me to their home, I was overwhelmed by the stifling heat and humidity, the kaleidoscopic impression of becaks (trishaws), cars, army lorries, buses, street vendors, people, people and people. They drove me to their suburban house on Jalan Mangga Besar Raya in Kota, the north district of the city.

In 1962 in the front yard of the Kwee family home on Jalan Mangga Besar Raya

Jalan Mangga Besar Raya was a wonderful introduction to Indonesian urban life. There was the constant “tok-tok” of bamboo sticks and “clang-clang” of metal bells coming from the street as a steady stream of vendors walked, peddled and rode past the front gate selling a multitude of products, ranging from every conceivable type of food delicacy to every household good one might possibly want. Up the street was Prinsen Park to which families thronged to enjoy the rides, performances and recreational facilities that had existed since colonial times. At the other end of the street were the major thoroughfares of Jalan Hayam Wuruk and Jalan Gajah Mada, which were then still rather grand tree-lined boulevards.

I soon became immersed in the Jakarta of the early sixties. The Kwee family drove me around the city to see the newly built monuments to Sukarno’s vision of a modern Indonesia: Sarinah, Jakarta’s first department store (still under construction), the new Japanese-built Hotel Indonesia, and the new Russian-built Senayan sports complex for the Asian Games with the Gelora Bung Karno stadium.
En route to the south of the city to see the newly established satellite residential district of Kebayoran Baru they drove me over the new Swedish-built Semanggi (meaning “Cloverleaf”) Bridge:

As Scott Merrillees comments: “In this post card we are looking across a recently completed and still very dusty Semanggi with the new Senayan stadium in the distance.”

I recall that driving south to Kebayoran Baru I could still see rice fields on either side of the road south from the city.

It is only now that I realise I had a very privileged experience of a world that was soon to change for ever. The city has grown from around 3 million when I arrived in 1962 to the current largely unmanageable population of over 10 million, and continues to grow inexorably. The Kwee’s house on Jalan Mangga Besar Raya is now long gone and the suburban atmosphere I experienced there has been replaced by hotels, nightclubs, brothels and shopping malls. Becaks and many other aspects of 1962 life have disappeared from Jakarta’s streets. I was still able to see many beautiful buildings from the colonial era, such as the charming Hotel des Indes, which had already been renamed Hotel Duta.

However, the hotel, like many other such historic buildings, was soon to be demolished to make way for a mall. There is much that has changed. One no longer sees mountains to the south of Jakarta as the pollution has drastically restricted visibility. One can no longer swim on the beach at Cilincing, near Tanjung Priok:

...and the rice fields I saw en route to Kebayoran Baru are long gone.

I made two more visits to Jakarta in the 1960s, the second in late 1964 when I landed at Kemayoran, Jakarta’s former airport in the city’s east.

Over the decades since then, I have made many more visits. Each time I have seen profound changes to the city, though underneath it all there is the old Jakarta I first experienced in 1962.

The three volumes by Scott Merrillees document, with a multitude of striking photos and postcards, lucidly discussed and contextualised, the way this city has changed from its earliest days as Batavia, Holland’s grand colonial outpost, to Jakarta, the modern city of today. The images accompanying this review are but a small taste of the fascinating sights captured in his three volumes. His commentary on each of the photos and postcards often draws one’s attention to details and features that would otherwise remain unnoticed. He also often links the image to his maps and to other images so that they become in effect a mosaic reflecting the city as a whole.

I am sure that for many who have ever lived in the city, one’s first inclination is to use the excellent indexes and maps in each volume to locate familiar places, relive the experience of having been there at a particular period, and to learn how they have changed over time. For example, I quickly found images of Mangga Besar, in colonial days named Prinsenlaan, and was amazed that the busy, crowded street of my memories had in former times been a quiet, grand tree-lined road:

I could even find an image of Prinsen Park, the amusement park down the road from the Kwee family home, whose name of course commemorates Mangga Besar’s colonial name of Prinsenlaan:

Prinsen Park was then re-named to become “Lokasari” before finally succumbing to Mangga Besar’s less than family-friendly atmosphere of today. As has been the fate of many a Jakarta landmark, Lokasari was demolished to make way for yet another of Jakarta’s many malls.

The books have allowed me, through its images and maps, to explore where I have lived in later years, including Jalan Raya Radio Dalam in Kebayoran Baru and Jalan Yusuf Adiwinata in Menteng. There is also the enjoyment of looking at the changes in the locations of familiar institutions, such as the Australian Embassy’s former location on Jalan Thamrin before it was moved to Kuningan. I still recall that the embassy, located on the west side of Jalan Thamrin, also had offices on the east side. Due to the heavy, and for those on foot, life-threatening traffic of Jalan Thamrin, embassy regulations required diplomats and staff, if they wanted to go from the main building to the offices across the road, to take an embassy car north on Jalan Thamrin to a roundabout located some distance and then back south so as to enter the building on the east side. To return to the embassy, required a lengthy and often time-consuming trip south to the nearest roundabout. However, it became a badge of courage for some (Australian males, of course) to defy regulations and to cross Thamrin on foot and at speed. Particular honours were accorded those who managed to do it without stopping en route.

I might mention that on a recent visit to Cuba I met some Indonesians, now in their eighties, who had been studying in communist countries in 1965 when Indonesia’s military took over Indonesia. The Suharto government forthwith cancelled the citizenship of such students abroad under the generally wrong assumption they were all communist. Some of the students gravitated to Cuba where they began new lives. One of them told me that in 2000 President Abdurrahman Wahid restored their citizenship and apologised to them for their enforced exile. One of the exiled students I met in Cuba said that in 2008 he returned to Jakarta for the first time since 1964. He said the Jakarta he encountered was thoroughly bewildering and he could not deal with the large, noisy and overwhelming metropolis he encountered. He said he was happy to return to Havana with its old cars, its quiet streets, its clean air and, in his words, its “liveability”. He said that he believed that his life in Havana had allowed him to live in a kind of Jakarta frozen in time.

I defy anyone who has ever lived or even visited Jakarta not to lose themselves in memories as they gaze at this treasure of post cards, photographs, maps and images. Indeed, it is the sort of treatment many other major cities of the world deserve.

Ron Witton

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Easier visas for Indonesians will help save our budget; and regional security.

As the resources boom continues to deteriorate, our Federal Government is looking for other sources to boost the struggling Australian economy. At the same time, our government is struggling to ensure our region remains safe at a time of increased threats of terrorism.

Although these issues may not be directly related, a long overdue announcement by our Border Force Minister Peter Dutton, from Jakarta during the PM’s visit recently, may help both these challenges faced by our state and federal governments.

As from 2017 Indonesian nationals wanting to visit Australia will have the visa application process simplified with a view to attracting more tourists from this emerging giant and home to 255 million people. There is enormous potential when we consider the tourist arrival figures into Australia for the year ending May 2014 from three neighbouring South East Asian nations:

· Singapore: 175,000

· Malaysia:   137,000

· Indonesia:    55,180

The above figures are disturbing. Our nearest neighbour, with a booming middle-class and 95 million young people, all located only a few hours away, and we can only attract less than 60,000 to come and see our wonderful country. And we wonder why most airlines battle to maintain direct flights services between Jakarta and Australian cities?

So why have we failed so badly to access the Indonesian market given that they do travel a lot; with 2.5 million Indonesians going to Malaysia last year and over two million flying into Singapore?

Apart from our lack of commitment to seriously promote Australia within Indonesia, another major deterrent is the process Indonesians face when considering a holiday here: No online visa applications allowed (yet we allow other South-East Asian nations to apply electronically), over 15 pages of forms and a $520.00 non-refundable fee just to obtain a visa for a family of four.

Why bother, when Indonesians can simply fly north without any of this red tape?

The Indonesia Institute has lobbied extensively to have the inbound tourist visa process made simpler and easier, but often we are told that an ‘easier’ visa system may encourage Indonesians to overstay once here. Yet Indonesian nationals who do come to Australia, including tourists, students and business people, have amongst the best record of any country in the world for visa compliance in Australia. So what mindset makes us actively discourage the growth of this market at such a critical time for our economy?

Fortunately with the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull as PM, relations with Indonesia have taken a sudden turn for the better. And Mr Dutton’s Jakarta announcement last month will now see Indonesians at least have access to online visas as from next year and the option of a multiple-entry visa. This is a good start, but the fees and the amount of paperwork should also be halved.

In the face of calls for tighter border controls, an announcement such as this was kept relatively low key. But the impact of this decision, combined with the recent decision to increase tourism promotion and staff in Indonesia, could see this market treble within the next two years and become a tsunami of free-spending middle-class Indonesians over the next ten years; all pumping much needed dollars into Australia’s services and hospitality sector.

The likelihood of Indonesia now removing the Visa-on-Arrival for our holidaymakers heading off to Bali will now be much higher, saving Australians $50 million every year.

But this quiet announcement of easier visa requirements for Indonesian tourists, achieves another important goal; bringing the people of our two nations closer.

At a national level, more Indonesians visiting us, means a better understanding of each other’s culture. With Australians still viewing Indonesia with great suspicion and alongside Egypt and Russia in terms of trust, there is much to be done to correct these warped perceptions.

More importantly for Australia though, is the threat of terrorism from Islamic Jihadists within our region. Indonesia may be the home to the largest population of Muslims in world, but it is also home to ‘real’ Muslims who overwhelmingly embrace the true meaning of Islam and who detest Islamic State who seek to inflict terror on not only Australia, but Indonesia itself.

Indonesia must play a critical role if Australia is to thwart the menace of IS. Our Federal Police have already developed close relations with their Indonesian counterparts since the 2002 Bali bombings, and our anti-terrorist agencies work closely in sharing information concerning terrorist cells and centres that have established themselves throughout the archipelago.

Only last month Bapak A. Mustufa Bisri, the Indonesian spiritual leader of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) – who has 50 million Muslim members – rejected the whole basis of IS adding, “..every aspect and expression of religion should be imbued with love and compassion..and foster the perfection of human nature..”

If we are to be successful in keeping our respective nations safe, Indonesia and Australia must not only work closely together, but also rebuild the trust that has been lost during the difficulties of the past few years. Indonesia can be a strong voice in our campaign to discredit ISIS amongst our own Muslim communities.

Opening-up opportunities for our respective citizens – including our young people – to travel more freely and easily around our two great countries, will go a long way to correcting the outdated dogma that currently exists.

Indonesia can therefore help our nation in building a strong inbound tourist market that can provide jobs - and the need for Asian language skills - and it can also contribute significantly to making our region a safer place.

Ross Taylor AM is the President of the WA-based Indonesia Institute Inc
December 2015
This article was originally published in The West Australian newspaper on 21st December 2015.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Migration - Australia vs Indonesia by Mary Hutchins

A good friend of mine recently complained about how much money she spent on sponsoring her Australian husband to live in Indonesia. However regardless the money she said, the time and energy she put on meeting the right people in the Immigration department, preparing all the documents and waiting for the decision were overwhelming. I also remembered my time 12 years ago, going through that sponsorship situation with my husband with the Australian Immigration. It was a tedious situation, where you had to fight to prove that your foreign partner has the right to live in your country so that you can be together. 

Australia recognises different ways for foreigners to live in Australia and enjoy the Australian soil and benefits. Most common ways I believe, apart from Refugee Visa; 
Spouse and Family Sponsored Visa – this visa is obviously for those whose partner is an Australian Permanent Residence (PR) or Australian citizen wishing to sponsor their foreign partner to live in Australia. A Family Sponsored Visa is for Australian PR or citizen wishing to sponsor their immediate family member like their child(ren) or their mum and dad to live in Australia.

Work Visa – this visa is for those wishing to live in Australia using their skill or expertise. This is either through an employer sponsored visa, where you find an eligible Australian business or company that is willing to employ and sponsor you to live in Australia (popular with 457 Visa or a foreign student studying in Australia employed by an Australian company), or a Skilled Migration Visa where you possess certain skills listed in the Australian Skill Select List issued by Immigration.

Business Visa – this visa allows foreign investors that invest in Australia to apply for their permanent residency, e.g opening a restaurant or establishing a business in Australia. Apparently Australia was ranked no. 3 for the easiest country for investing a business.  

All terms and conditions for these visas and all other opportunities to live in Australia are very well written in Australian immigration website, I found the website is very informative. Based on my experience applying for a Student Visa and then changing it to a Spouse Sponsored Visa, I found the Australian bureaucratic process pretty straight forward. As long as you tick all boxes and supply all requested paperwork, your application will most likely be approved. In my opinion, Australia is quite open and very reasonable with foreigners wanting to live here.   

Indonesia, on the other hand, has always been well known as an “exclusive” country. The old Law No 62/1958 clearly stipulates that Indonesian citizenship follows parental blood line and in this regards, paternal (father) line. A baby from a foreign citizen will not automatically become Indonesian, just because he/she were born in Indonesia. Indonesia is not as open as Australia and they’re extremely strict about living and working in Indonesia. However the good news is, Indonesia has come a long way since that old 1958 law. For a start, in 2006 through Law 12/2006 regarding Indonesian Nationality (which replaced UU 2/1958), child(ren) below 18 years old that come from mixed marriages will automatically be granted Indonesian citizenship. They are allowed to hold dual citizenship until they are 18 years of age, then they must choose. Even so, that law gives lots of privileges and concessions for those adult children who choose to give up their Indonesian citizenship. They can easily apply for ITAS (Semi Permanent Resident Visa) and ITAP (Permanent Resident Visa) and, they are allowed to work in Indonesia (without a company sponsorship) however, I would receive consultation regarding this clause with Indonesian Immigration.

In regards to applying for Indonesian citizenship, both UU 62/1958 and UU 12/2006 ask the foreign applicant to live in Indonesia 5 years continuously or 10 years not continually, which I believe is a long time. So how about foreign partners from mixed marriages? Considering Indonesia respects the paternal side of the blood line, must a foreign man that married an Indonesian woman live in Indonesia for 5 years or 10 years? Rest assured, the answer is No.  Law No. 6/2011 re. Immigration states that your Indonesian wife or husband can sponsor you to live in Indonesia by applying for ITAS for 2 years which can then be extended. If you have been married for 2 years or more or if you have been living in Indonesia for at least 3 years, you can then apply for ITAP which is valid for 5 years and can be extended for an unidentified time. More good news is, Law 6/2011 also states that the foreign spouse that holds ITAS or ITAP sponsored by their Indonesian spa use is allowed to work in Indonesia. However, I would be very careful with that clause, as Indonesia is well known to be extremely strict about foreigners wanting to work there. If you are a ITAS or ITAP holder sponsored by your Indonesian spouse and you intend to work in Indonesia, I would personally be seeking consultation with the Department of Manpower and Immigration.

As you can see Indonesia has come a long way to support foreigners wanting to live in Indonesia, either temporary as an expatriate worker or to support their business/investment in Indonesia or permanently due to a family or marriage relationship. Government Regulation No 31/2013 regarding the stipulation of UU 6/2011 regarding Immigration Law states that a Visitor Visa now also allows you to conduct a short business trip or activities such as attending business meetings, attending conferences or training or conducting feasibility studies for your future investment in Indonesia, or even for prospective foreign workers conducting a field test before commencing their contract work. This Visitor Visa can be the Visitor Visa on Arrival (30 days and can be extended for another 30 days) or a Short Visit Visa (30 days non extendable) or Multiple Visit Visa (valid for a year non extendable and cannot be more than 60 days). This is a milestone from what a visitor visa was intended to be used for previously: strictly no business could be conducted.  

Last but not least on 24th June 2015, in the Business Indonesia newspaper front page, President Joko Widodo blesses Foreign Ownership on Property in Indonesia. The regulation is still under revision in the House of Representatives but is expected to be legalised by next year. Rumours suggest that Foreigners will be able to own property in Indonesia. The title might still be called Right of Use (Hak Pakai, or now they called it Hak Guna Pakai) but instead will have 25 years of rights. Under this new draft, this Right of Use can be for an unidentified time (seumur hidup) and can be inherited. However, rumour also suggests that the government will set a minimum price of Rp. 5 billion on the property. Still, there is another door opened.

Well I must say that I am very proud of Indonesia for coming a long way and its willingness to change to open more doors to foreign investment.